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Israel Environment & Nature: Nightingale

Nightingale (Heb. זָמִיר (mod.), zamir), a name applied to singing birds of the genus Luscinia, of which three species are found in Israel.

The most outstanding for its song is the Luscinia megarhynchos which hatches its eggs in the thickets of the Jordan. It is a small brown bird, common in Western Europe. The Hebrew word is mentioned only once in the Bible in a description of spring in Ereẓ Israel: "The time of the zamir is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land" (Song 2:12). The parallelism between zamir and turtledove indicates that the reference here is to a bird and, according to the meaning of the Hebrew root, to a singing one. Apparently the nightingale is not specifically meant but rather all singing birds that in spring and during the breeding season fill the air with their melodious song. Some, however, maintain that zamir is derived from the root signifying "fruit-picking," since in the Gezer Calendar there occurs the expression yarḥo zamor denoting the fruit-picking months in summer. But as the Song of Songs speaks of spring, this interpretation is improbable.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.